Chicago’s Wall of Respect
Art and graffiti have often served as voices of the marginalized and oppressed. Today we’re thinking back on Chicago’s legendary ‘Wall of Respect,’ which was located at the corner of 43rd Street and Langley. Local artist William Walker gathered poets, photographers and rival gang members to paint portraits of over 50 African American heroes on the wall of a run-down building in a city ravaged by institutional segregation and discrimination. The autonomous community effort was an expression of Black pride and liberation born of the Black Arts Movement activated at the time.
The building has since been torn down but the Wall of Respect inspired a mural movement in African American neighborhoods throughout the city, then the entire country, leaving a legacy. Systemic racism hasn't ended but some artists keep up the work, seen in the handmade signs of today’s protests and the marks left behind by activists marching for change.
There is an incredible book titled: The Wall of Respect: Public Art and Black Liberation in 1960s Chicago you can order from most book sellers if you want to learn more.